An Australian soldier points a gun at an unarmed man in Afghanistan (Image: ABC News)
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SAS leaders reportedly forced new soldiers to kill prisoners so they could become "blooded", it has been reported.
Australian troops are potentially facing prosecution for unlawful killings in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013.
General Angus Campbell, head of the Australian Defence Force, released a heavily redacted report compiled by Paul Brereton, a senior Sydney judge and former army reserve general.
It took the judge about four years to complete an inquiry and compile the report.
About 19 soldiers could face criminal investigations
(Image: ABC News)
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Justice Brereton found information that Australian special forces committed up to 39 alleged unlawful killings while operating within the American-led coalition in Afghanistan.
The killings reportedly included "first kill" shooting by junior soldiers on the orders of SAS who wanted their subordinates "blooded", The Times reports.
The report also found that foreign weapons and communications equipment used to be put next to the bodies of dead people so that they could look like soldiers in a bid to deceive senior officers.
General Campbell alleged that the number of Afghans killed unlawfully by rogue special forces may be even higher than 39.
Some soldiers could face having their medals removed
(Image: ABC News)
He said: "I have to reluctantly accept that as a possibility."
The general also encouraged anyone who may have information about the unlawful killings to come forward.
He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "I was anticipating that it wouldn’t be good. But I didn’t realise how bad it would be.
"And it is a very, very confronting report."
An investigator will be appointed by the Australian government to look at the allegations
(Image: ABC News)
One incident, redacted in the report, was described as "possibly the most disgraceful episode in Australia’s military history".
Following the report, up to 19 serving and formers soldiers – mostly from SAS – will face criminal investigations and could potentially lose their medals.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president, just hours before the report was published.
He promised to continue looking into the allegations and pointed out the integrity of special forces was critical.
Australia's defence minister said she was "physically ill" after reading the findings of the investigation.
"I was like every other Australian who watched that – I was totally and utterly shocked and mortified," Linda Reynolds said.
"I got the report two weeks ago and it made me physically ill."
The allegations were addressed by ABC in a documentary earlier this year.
The Australian government is set to appoint a special investigator to oversee the next steps.